Now Hansen is back to warn that our leaders are "failing miserably" in responding to this existential threat. Guess what leader is close to the top of Hansen's "worst" list? C'mon, Liberals, you know who it is.
Since this time, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have mushroomed despite repeated, increasingly frantic warnings about civilization-shaking catastrophe, from scientists amassing reams of evidence in Hansen’s wake.
“All we’ve done is agree there’s a problem,” Hansen told the Guardian. “We agreed that in 1992 [at the Earth summit in Rio] and re-agreed it again in Paris [at the 2015 climate accord]. We haven’t acknowledged what is required to solve it. Promises like Paris don’t mean much, it’s wishful thinking. It’s a hoax that governments have played on us since the 1990s.”
Hansen’s long list of culprits for this inertia are both familiar – the nefarious lobbying of the fossil fuel industry – and surprising. Jerry Brown, the progressive governor of California, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, are “both pretending to be solving the problem” while being unambitious and shunning low-carbon nuclear power, Hansen argues.
Three decades of diplomacy has blossomed into an international consensus, albeit rattled by Trump, that the temperature rise must be curbed to “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. But in this time emissions have soared (in 1988, 20bn tons of carbon dioxide was emitted – by 2017 it was 32bn tons) with promised cuts insufficient for the 2C goal. Despite the notable growth of renewable energy such as solar and wind, Hansen believes there is no pathway to salvation without a tax on carbon-producing fuels.
“The solution isn’t complicated, it’s not rocket science,” Hansen said. “Emissions aren’t going to go down if the cost of fossil fuels isn’t honest. Economists are very clear on this. We need a steadily increasing fee that is then distributed to the public.”
...“Poor Jim Hansen. He’s a tragic hero,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard academic who studies the history of science. “The Cassandra aspect of his life is that he’s cursed to understand and diagnose what’s going on but unable to persuade people to do something about it. We are all raised to believe knowledge is power but Hansen proves the untruth of that slogan. Power is power.”
That power has been most aggressively wielded by fossil fuel companies such as Exxon and Shell which, despite being well aware of the dangers of climate change decades before Hansen’s touchstone moment in 1988, funded a network of groups that ridiculed the science and funded sympathetic politicians. Later, they were to be joined by the bulk of the US Republican party, which now recoils from any action on climate change as heresy.
“Obama was committed to action but couldn’t do much with the Congress he had,” Oreskes said. “To blame the Democrats and Obama is to misunderstand the political context. There was a huge, organized network that put forward a message of confusion and doubt.”
Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who testified at the same 1988 hearing about sea level rise, said the struggle to confront climate change has been “discouraging”.
“The nasty anti-science movement ramped up and now we are way behind.”
“I’m convinced we will deal with the problem,” he said. “[But] not before there is an amount of suffering that is unconscionable and should’ve been avoided.”
I wish I could believe Oppenheimer's assurances but I cannot. For starters, he's committing the "original sin" of treating climate change as a stand alone problem. It simply is not. It is tightly interwoven with other major, man-made threats, especially overpopulation and our massively excessive consumption of essential resources.
Climate change is a global problem but, even if their impacts are not uniform, so too are overpopulation and over-consumption. Because these are global problems, each in its own right rising to the level of existential, they require global solutions, collaborative efforts by all nations. They are tightly connected, bonded in fact, that you cannot successfully deal with one unless you deal successfully with them all.
Because these are global threats demanding global responses we will have to ensure a high degree of global stability, especially among those nations that will be the "first and worst" impacted. These nations also tend to be the most impoverished and vulnerable. Not all by any means but most. A lack of global stability, the rise of chaos, may shred our prospects of dealing with this basket of existential challenges.
We must also recognize that the developed nations that have the greatest ability to respond to these challenges are also now receiving early onset climate change impacts. Our own resilience may be sapped, weakening our ability to respond and undermining our national and collective will to act even as the challenges multiply and worsen.